The number of Christians enlisted in the Israeli Defense Force rose sharply in 2013, tripling to 100 from 35 a year earlier, while 500 young Christians have volunteered for Israeli National Service programs, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Monday.
At a meeting with Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox priest from Nazareth and spiritual leader of a forum for the enlistment of Christian youth in the IDF, Netanyahu said a joint government-community forum would be established within two weeks to promote the enlistment of Christian community youth in the IDF and national service and their integration into the life of the state.
The forum will work to integrate more members of the Christian community into the IDF, ease the necessary administrative and legal aspects of signing up, protect those who support enlistment and enlistees from violence and threats, and step up law enforcement against those who disturb the peace and incite to violence, the Prime Minister’s Communication Office said.
“Our goal is to guard the Holy Land and the State of Israel. We have broken the barrier of fear – the state deserves that we do our part in defending it. Those who oppose the integration of the Christian community in the institutions of state do not walk in the path of Christianity,” said Father Nadaf at the meeting with the Prime Minister.
“Members of the Christian community must be allowed to enlist in the IDF,” said Netanyahu, “You are loyal citizens who want to defend the state and I salute you and support you. We will not tolerate threats against you and we will act to enforce the law with a heavy hand against those who persecute you. I will not tolerate attempts to crumble the state from within. The State of Israel and the Prime Minister stand alongside you.”
Naji Abid, leader of the Orthodox council in Yafia and Lt. (ret.) Shadi Khaloul, head of the forum, were also present at the meeting.